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Senzatela becoming legit rotation candidate

Righty fired four-plus scoreless innings Monday to lower ERA to 2.38
March 13, 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela has shown this spring that while he respects hitters he has seen mostly on television, he believes he is good enough to beat them.In his second straight stellar Spring Training performance, Senzatela, a candidate for a season-opening rotation spot, started and held the

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela has shown this spring that while he respects hitters he has seen mostly on television, he believes he is good enough to beat them.
In his second straight stellar Spring Training performance, Senzatela, a candidate for a season-opening rotation spot, started and held the Royals scoreless for 4 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts, in the Rockies' 4-2 loss Monday afternoon.
Never mind that Senzatela is just 22, with his highest experience level being seven Double-A starts during an abbreviated 2016 campaign.
"That's funny, because you're watching the games and saying, 'Man, that guy's pretty good,'" Senzatela said. "But when you face him, you say, 'OK. I need to get him out. It's my job.'"
In his last outing, Senzatela struck out four in three innings against the Rangers. Against the Royals, he was so efficient that manager Bud Black let him face two batters in the fifth. It's the deepest a Rockies pitcher has gone this spring.

Senzatela earned the Class A California League Pitcher of the Year award in 2015 after posting a 9-9 record, 2.51 ERA and 143 K's in 154 innings at Modesto. Last year, he was stellar when available at Double-A Hartford: 4-1 record and a 1.82 ERA in seven starts. But he was twice placed on the disabled list as the Rockies handled his right shoulder soreness with extreme caution, and he was given time to go home to Venezuela to be with his mother, who battled stomach cancer before her death.
The Rockies haven't had a pitcher skip Triple-A since righty Eddie Butler in 2014. Butler struggled on and off for Colorado, and was traded to the Cubs this offseason. With two first-round picks in lefty Kyle Freeland and righty Jeff Hoffman, along with righty German Marquez, competing for a rotation spot -- Marquez and Hoffman debuted in the Majors last year -- the Rockies are still trying to determine where Senzatela fits in.
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Black is watching everything about the young righty, noting Monday that the Royals took "funny swings" on his fastball and that Senzatela mixed in his slider and changeup effectively. Black was also complimentary of Senzatela's mound presence.
"Everybody's talked about his ability to move pitches around the strike zone," Black said. "When you can do that, you can have a lot of success. And he's got a delivery that he repeats and confidence in the pitches he's going to throw the most, and that starts with his fastball."

Worth noting
• The Rockies optioned right-handed pitchers Yency Almonte and Miguel Castro, along with lefty pitcher Sam Moll, and reassigned non-roster right-hander James Farris and catcher Dom Nunez to Minor League camp. Of those sent out, the disappointment was Castro, who was a part of Colorado's bullpen early last season but has struggled since going on the disabled list last May with shoulder issues. Castro had a 15.75 ERA in five spring appearances, with six hits and four walks in four innings.
• Righty Jason Motte gave up four runs and four hits in Sunday's 9-8 loss to the Reds, and Black noted that Motte is entering a different career stage. "Like all pitchers, probably gone are the days of the 97-98 mph fastball, which was prevalent in St. Louis," Black said. "He's got to rely more on moxie or more on hitting spots with his fastball, or on getting his cutter into good spots and utilizing the change."
• Lefty Chris Rusin, who suffered a right oblique injury on March 3, threw Monday at 60-70 feet. It was his fourth and most comfortable throwing session. Black said Rusin, who was competing for a rotation spot but has extensive relief history, likely won't be able to build up his pitch count to start, but he could be a bullpen option.
• Catcher Tony Wolters, who suffered a slightly hyperextended elbow on March 1, returned Monday and went 1-for-2.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.